This is the first in a series of articles about Indian Point.
Indian Point's two nuclear power plants are scheduled to be closed permanently in a year or two, under an agreement negotiated by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
What New Yorkers haven't been told is that the shutdown may cause massive, widespread power outages, increased air pollution and decades of radioactivity with no clear plan to clean up the Buchanan site, according to a local engineer who has been meeting with government officials to reverse the decision.
This comes as Con Edison last month announced it may stop accepting new gas customers in Westchester due to an anticipated shortage of supply to meet demands. The utility company had 1,100 pending applications for new gas hookups before an expected March 17 moratorium.
Indian Point generates an estimated 25 percent of the electricity used by millions of customers in the New York metropolitan area.
Coupled with the increased reliance on gas-fired power plants, Herschel Specter, a former federal regulator, MIT engineer and president of Micro-Utilities, Inc., predicts regular blackouts may return to the Empire State's future. Specter is intimately familiar with the power plants in Buchanan as the Licensing Project Manager for the original licensing of the Indian Point 3 nuclear plant in the 1970s.
Specter, a retired New York Power Authority employee from White Plains, said the closure of the Indian Point plants may present an immediate system reliability problem which may worsen over time.
"There is still a limited amount of time to prevent an environmental and economic blunder of historical proportions that will harm many innocent people for no valid reason. New York State and Entergy need to quickly come together to hammer out an agreement to continue to operate Indian Point for four more years beyond the present closure dates," Specter said.
"Replacing Indian Point with gas plants now under construction does not solve this problem because New York City needs both these new gas plants and Indian Point," Specter said.
New York state has failed to provide a meaningful plan to maintain acceptable electric reliability levels even if Indian Point continues to operate, let alone if it is closed, according to Specter.
Indian Point employs about 1,100 permanent workers, not including part-time and outside contractors. Entergy, the nuclear plants' operator, says: “The economic impact to the surrounding community, through payroll and charitable contributions, exceeds $240 million dollars every year.”
Con Edison and New York City have calculated the increased cost for electricity would be at least 12 percent once the Indian Point nuclear reactors close.
Bob McGee, a Con Edison spokesman, said, "As it turns out, we have a study, but we can’t share it because it has commercially sensitive market and transmission-generation information, the revelation of which could adversely affect a subsequent price we pay for energy, a cost that’s a direct pass-through from us to our customers."
McGee added, "Our responsibility is to provide energy and make sure we have adequate supply and reserve. We'll see when 2020 comes around."
The closure of the Indian Point power plants has other major impacts in Westchester County including an estimated annual local revenue loss of $32 million:
- About 64 percent of the Verplanck Fire Department’s tax revenue will be lost,
- About 46 percent of the Village of Buchanan’s tax revenue will be lost,
- About 33 percent of the Hendrick Hudson School District’s tax revenue will be lost,
- About 28 percent of the Hendrick Hudson Free Library’s income will be lost,
- Property values will decline and school programs will be cut back.
Some legislators have proposed that New York state provide annual tax relief to local school districts and municipalities directly affected by Indian Point's closure, as reported here by Daily Voice.
Last, but not least, radioactive material could remain on the site for up to 60 years, Specter said. This means the Indian Point site could not likely become a source of new businesses, jobs, or tax revenues until the site is clear of radioactivity.
The Closure Agreement that New York State signed does not address this issue. The Agreement created confusion when it stated that "..., Radioactive Decommissioning, and those site remediation activities under the sole authority of the NRC."
In fact, the licensee, Entergy, is responsible for radioactive decommissioning, not the Nuclear Regulatory Commission which is only responsible for radiation safety, even up to 60 years.
Specter warned that Westchester should be very cautious about agreeing to any transfer of the Indian Point license to a third party, like a specialized decommissioning company. If any third party holding the Indian Point licenses goes bankrupt, Entergy would not be required to complete the decommissioning job. This expense would most likely fall on state residents.